Monday 18 February 2019

Now the hunter becomes the hunted

I welcome the Millward Brown opinion poll finding that two out of every three Irish people want fox hunting banned (Irish Independent, April 9). The reaction of the field sport lobby was predictable. It has once again dredged up the old arguments in favour of hunting that, despite the serious nature of the subject, have always been good for a laugh. To say that the pro-hunting

I welcome the Millward Brown opinion poll finding that two out of every three Irish people want fox hunting banned (Irish Independent, April 9). The reaction of the field sport lobby was predictable. It has once again dredged up the old arguments in favour of hunting that, despite the serious nature of the subject, have always been good for a laugh. To say that the pro-hunting case is flawed would be a gross understatement. It relies completely upon a set of contradictory claims and delightfully subjective hyperbole. "We serve the farmers well by keeping down the fox population" they say, before, almost in the same breath telling us that "sure, we hardly ever catch a fox, most of them get away". So which is it? They cannot be controlling fox numbers if they seldom catch the wily creatures. "The farmers and country folk love us and extend a warm welcome to hunts in the countryside", they say, despite the pages full of hunt ban notices from farmers that appear in the provincial print media at the start of every hunting season. "We hate to see a fox get caught, we're only in it for the chase and the clean fresh air of the countryside," they say, and yet every hunt employs men with spades and terriers to dig out any fox that goes to ground, so that the trapped and terrified animal can then be tossed to the pack. "Foxes take hens and lambs, so farmers breathe a sigh of relief when the hunt arrives," they assure us. These, one presumes, would be the farmers whose fields of crops are not churned up by rampaging horses and hounds, and whose herds are not scattered to the four winds by the "fox-controlling" hunt cavalry. "We rarely catch the strong, healthy foxes. It's mainly the old, sick and diseased ones." A peculiar "sport" that targets the old, sick and diseased. And wouldn't the strong, healthier fellows pose a greater threat to poultry or lambs? And for people so vocally committed to protecting farms from foxes, isn't it rather odd that hunts go out of their way to introduce fox cubs into areas where foxes have become scarce. Following the UK ban, the day of its deliverance cannot be too far off. The hunters are becoming the hunted, and this chase can end only with the death of fox hunting in Ireland. JOHN FITZGERALD, CALLAN, CO KILKENNY

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